birthday week photo no. 8: anna & hanna

Entering my 30th year, I have a lot of things to be grateful to the universe for -- and a lot of things to look forward to. I'll probably have more to say about my desires for the future throughout the year, but for now I just wanted acknowledge how grateful I am to have Hanna to look forward with. I honestly expected to be reaching this period in my life single. Living on my own is a way of life that I've often enjoyed and never look on as a lesser way of moving through the world. Yet I am, at heart, a relational being who thrives best in intimate company. I was content alone, but at the same time aware that on some level I was existentially lonely.

Then Hanna walked into my life. And I found I wasn't lonely any longer. Where she is feels like home, and with her I am at peace.

this arrived for me at work yesterday, from Hanna
by xkcd
So it seems appropriate to round out this week of birthday photos by celebrating that she is in the world and that she stands ready and willing to share her life with me.

wee Hanna
(this is still her super-happy smile of pure delight)
Mom and wee Anna
(I now have more teeth and not all smiling involves closing my eyes)
A huge big thank you to everyone who made yesterday a delight, and for all of you who make the future potentially so full of love and kindness.


birthday week photo no. 7: 3/30/1984

My third birthday (1984).
It is now obvious to me I need to find
another pair of pink sunglasses.
So today is my actual birthday. Thanks to everyone who is helping me celebrate, near and far. As I'm writing this post, it's only 9:30 in the morning and I've already had "happy birthday" messages from folks in three separate countries on two continents.

Here's to another thirty years. Then thirty more - and beyond.


birthday week photo no. 6: and then there were three

Brian (5), Maggie (2), Anna (8), circa 1989
My parents decided that my projectile vomiting and incessant crying weren't enough to deter them from increasing the family size, and in 1984 I found myself in possession of a brother -- meeting him for the first time is one of my earliest memories -- and in 1987 a sister ("she poops in the bathtub," I noted in my diary -- even at age six a chronicler of historical events). Here we are posing quasi-photogenically in our new flannel pyjamas.

As you can see, we grew up in a house in which there were never enough bookcases. Over twenty years later I'm proud to say that Hanna and I have pretty much the same problem on at least a quarterly if not monthly basis! Hanna just turned to me last night and said, "You realize one more trip to the $1 carts and we won't have anywhere to store our board games." I can think of many worse situations to be in.


birthday week photo nos. 4 & 5: anna + hats

when the world was still in grayscale
this was my dad's hat; for some reason I totally adored it
According to my mother, the nurses at the hospital where I was born kept trying to put knitted infant hats on me, to keep my head warm. I did not react well.

Apparently, I've always had a good set of lungs.
Even today I'm not terribly fond of hats (it bothers me to have something covering my ears), so I'm kind of surprised that two of the photos my mother picked out to scan actually feature me wearing hats.


harpy week: omnibus edition

Rainbow Harpy
Harpy Week is back, folks, after a hiatus due to being in Maine with zero internet connectivity visiting my in-laws (not strictly legal yet, but what else do you call them, really?).

Over the past two weeks I've written a handful of posts over at The Pursuit of Harpyness and my colleagues have posted a handful as well.

Working backwards this time, just for the sake of novelty
  • On Friday, I asked folks to share their favorite signs of spring. My favorite response as of this writing was from Es, who responded: "The big white patches of horsehair in the drying mud in the fields, where my girl has had her winter blankets off and is rolling her fluff out! Like pony-snow-angels."
  • On Wednesday I threw up an open thread which developed several interesting conversations in comments about shitty experiences in academia, life changes, and wacky-yet-wonderful experiences in readers' lives.
  • Last Monday, following the trip to Maine, I wrote a rant about size-based segregation and stigma in clothing stores. While comments got off to a relatively slow start, by the end of the week we'd accumulated quite a long thread in which folks described their various frustrations in finding clothing that matches their body type and aesthetic preferences.
  • During the previous week, I wrote a Harpy Hall of Fame post about Sylvia Pankhurst, the middle daughter of the famous family of British suffrage activists. Click through to find out why she's buried in Addis Abiba, Ethiopia!
  • I highlighted a new report on bisexual invisibility published and made available online by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission LGBT Advisory Committee. There was some discussion in comments about what bisexual invisibility actually entailed, and how bisexual folks are (or are not) marginalized within the wider queer community.
  • And finally, nearly two weeks ago now I shared one of the wackiest pieces of solicitation junk mail I have ever had the (mis)fortune to receive. Click through for the tale of a Jesus prayer "rug" and the most egregious overuse of underlining in the history of the U.S. postal service.
Others have written posts on Wilma Mankiller, Geraldine Ferarro, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (one hundred years ago March 25). We've discussed the ten commandments, prison rape, and stereotypes about mothers-in-law. We've talked about depression and job loss and what it takes some days to keep moving forward. Click on over to read the rest.

Hope you all have a day of rest this Sunday and that the week ahead is a little bit brighter for you than the one we're leaving behind.

birthday week photo no. 3: you, me, and the baby makes three

Janet, Anna, and Mark (circa late 1981)
When my parents got married they bought an old 1890s fixer-upper in our town's newly-created historic district. When I was born five years later, there were bare walls and gaps between the boards and a table saw in the living room. My grandmother was appalled. I doubt I cared much. As you can see, we had one of the most important things: a working record player and a good collection of albums (nearly offstage left).

My parents still look pretty much like this. My mother went through an unfortunate period of permed hair in the mid-1980s and Dad now has glasses, but otherwise that's them. My hair's a little longer and darker than it was back then. And I'd like to think I've gotten passed the blank stare. You'd have to check with Hanna on that one, though. She claims I have this look I get when the cogs in my brain go funky ... maybe this photo captures an early instance of such a mental meltdown?


birthday week photo no. 2: baby anna sleeps like a cat

Mark and Anna take a nap (circa April 1981)
Every time I look at this picture, something about the posture of baby me reminds me of our cat Geraldine. Something about the way my arms are all out in front of me on Dad's belly (although with the cat it would be her favorite wool blanket). Since I was five weeks early I had very little body fat; note my frighteningly skeletal fingers. Most of the bulk you see in under the onesie is actually the infant diapers, which covered me from butt to armpit. Thankfully, I quickly started growing ... and didn't really stop for the next eighteen years!


happy birthday mom!

Today is my mother's birthday. Happy birthday Mom!

Anna Jane and Janet Ann (circa April 1981)
 Thirty years ago on this day, when my mother Janet celebrated her 31st birthday she was still pregnant with me. Five days later, I got tired of waiting and decided to make my entrance into the world, a full five weeks before my anticipated due date. (I always did like to get ahead of myself).

As a special birthday request this year, I asked my mother to pick out some of her favorite photographs from my early childhood years to be scanned and posted on my blog during "birthday week." So between now and next Friday, look forward to some incredibly dated and fun family photography! (Why else were blogs invented by for embrassing onesself in public, yes?)

Meanwhile, wish my awesome mother many happy returns of the day and another 61 years of kick-ass living, learning and being part of this wacky and wonderful family she helped create.


in love with new blogs: born this way

Okay. I don't know about you folks, but this week has really knocked me back a few paces in one way or another. Can't believe it's only Thursday. Looking forward to the weekend. But! In the meantime, what does one do to de-stress?

Well, there are lots of options, but the one I'm going to share here is my new favorite blog: Born This Way!

In its own words, Born This Way! is "A photo/essay project for gay adults (of all genders) to submit childhood pictures and stories (roughly ages 2 to 12), reflecting memories & early beginnings of their innate LGBTQ selves."

Heather, age 1
Quite simply: How could you not become addicted to a blog devoted to posting adorable pictures of queer folks when they were children, alongside stories of their early memories of growing up not-quite-straight? Sometimes the snippets of life are hard, sometimes they're heartening. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I find every single one of the photographs completely compelling -- no matter how awkward they might be, particularly when read alongside stories of childhood marginalization. I think the thing I love most about them is that, almost by default, every single child in these photographs has grown into a self-possessed adult who believes in themselves enough to submit their story to this blog. They are, by definition, all resilient survivors.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures and memories from the last couple of weeks' worth of posts.

"I first learned that openly admiring girls was 'wrong' when I was 4, and saw an episode of 'Beverly Hills 90210.' It was a beach scene, and the girls were in bikinis. Several times, I mentioned how pretty the girls were, and my aunt told my mom I was going to be gay. Oh, me and my mouth."

Clarissa, age 4 (Bronx, NY)

Clarissa, age 4 (Bronx, NY)
 "I loved being a tomboy! I wanted to be tough and dirty, and would go to work with my dad the mechanic. I didn't always wear coveralls, though. My mom found a way to get me to wear dresses by making them herself, patterning them after Lucy Van Pelt of the 'Peanuts' cartoon. I acknowledged Lucy's toughness, and felt tough in those dresses, too!"

Isaac, age 4 (Lodi, WI)

"This is a picture of me dressing up in the pre-school that I attended. It was actually published in the local paper, for a feature story about the pre-school. I loved to put on that tutu and dance around the play area, and pretend to be a princess. I loved making the other students play princess with me, especially the boys."

It's interesting to me, reading these submissions, how often gender-atypical behavior (being a girl who resists dresses, a boy who likes makeup) gets identified by the author of the post as one of their earliest signs that they were "different" ... even though gender-atypical behavior doesn't actually correlate with a non-straight sexual orientation. I wonder if these narratives of being gender-atypical are a product of adults looking back into their own childhoods in search of confirmation that they were queer from their earliest memories -- long before they would have had conscious feelings of adult sexual desire. I certainly know that since realizing (as an adult) my fluid sexuality, I've caught myself looking backwards into the past for signs of queerness in my childhood. Sometimes I question whether that's the most accurate or valid approach to self-confirmation!

But that's enough metaphysical speculation for today! If you yourself identify as queer and want to participate in the project, check out the submission guidelines page. It's definitely on my own "to do" list once I have a little space to breathe around here. If/when I end up submitting something and if/when it gets published, watch for the link to appear right here at the feminist librarian.


ficnotes: the student prince

I know, I know ... last time I did one of these I promised more femslash! And now here I am bringing you more yaoi. What can I say? My friend Minerva encouraged me to check this one out and it was so totally and completely charming that I simply have to share it with you.

Title: The Student Prince
Author: FayJay
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin (AU)
Rating:G to NC-17 depending on chapter.

Length: 35 chapters (navigable through drop-down menu)
Available At: Archive of Our Own and Audiofic(swoon!!)
So I don't know how many of you have seen any episodes of the new BBC series Merlin but Hanna and I caught about half the first season two summers ago, back when we were still getting the channel that broadcast the show here in the U.S. and...yeah. This was a show that frickin' wore the slash right there on its sleeve. The whole show played like a massive in-joke between the actors playing Merlin and Arthur, who were clearly egging one another on to make every single interaction between the two characters be so brimming full of subtext that the subtext just gave up the damn ghost and became text.

Every person I've informally surveyed about this show agrees with the above assessment. And if the fanfic and fan art are anything to go by? This state of affairs totally meets with fan approval.

So what can I say about "The Student Prince"? Broadly speaking, it's an AU ("alternate universe") fic set in modern-day England, largely at St. Andrews University, the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, where all the major players are first-year students at university. Arthur is the only son of the nation's ruling monarch, Uther Pendragon, whose mother died in childbirth. Merlin is a scholarship student from Cardiff studying Physics and (a bit more covertly) Magic. Gwen, a fellow first-year Merlin meets on the train to Edinburgh, is an Engineering student who is nursing a major crush for third-year student and kick-boxing instructor Lance. Morgana, reading Magic alongside Merlin, is Arthur's cousin the Duchess of Edinburgh and next in line after him for the throne.

There's a dragon. There's a kitten. There's Raisin Weekend, evil plots, skipped lectures, stolen kisses, not-so-stolen kisses ... as Minerva succictly put it in an email, "The Student Prince is quite adorable most of the way through, then it gets smokin' hot, then angsty, then adorable again."

Oh, and have I mentioned that the Great Dragon wants an iPod?

Have fun everyone!


from the neighborhood: gratuitous geraldine pics

Geraldine helps with thesis revisions
Geraldine takes after her cousin Toby by sleeping in the napkin basket
Gerry gets sneaky (if she can't see you, you obviously can't see her)


from the archives: links round-up

MHS (front view)
I've done a handful of posts for the Beehive recently about activities going on at the MHS and I thought I'd share them here for interested readers.

In February, we welcomed our third new library assistant of the year, Dan Hinchen, a former MHS intern. Thanks to the speed with which our new folks are learning, the library staff will be a well-oiled machine by the time our busy summer season rolls around.

I was lucky enough to recieve an advance review copy of Neil Miller's book Banned in Boston, which tells the story of the New England Watch & Ward Society -- a privately-funded organization that, throughout the early 20th century, had tacit permission from local, state, and federal officials to police "obscenity" throughout the Northeast.  Some of Miller's primary sources are held here at the Society and I wrote a post about one of those collections, the Godfrey Lowell Cabot papers. I'm also planning a future Object of the Month display around one of the items in this collection I didn't talk about: the deposition of a woman named Nellie Keefe who describes being sexually assaulted by a doctor whom she had sought out to treat her "nerves."

I attended two brown bag lunch talks during the first week of March. The first was a presentation by staff from the Adams papers about the Adams family's response to the French Revolution. The second was delivered by short-term fellow Mary Kelley, from the University of Michigan, who discussed her current research into how reading and writing practices operated to mediate kinship and friendship ties in the Early Republic. Post link to come in the next "from the archives" installment (since I was dilatory in writing it up).

As Mary Kelley was leaving us, another short-term fellow, Brian Gratton, arrived from Arizona State University to begin his work on Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and immigration restriction during the early twentieth century. Watch for a write-up of his brown bag discussion in the next round-up.


harpy week: driving, dorothy day and barruguets

Two posts by yours truly this week, and a few by other Harpies.
  • On Monday, I blogged about the pleasures of driving -- and how I miss being behind the wheel now that I live in the city and don't own a car. In the comment thread, readers wrote about their own driving experiences and what they miss (or don't miss) about previous places they have lived and worked.
  • Thursday was the inaugural Thursday Night Trivia thread in which I posed the question "work or food?" to our readers (click through to find out why!)
  • On Friday, I contributed to the series we Harpies are doing on women in history (in honor of Women's History Month). My first contribution was Dorothy Day (1897-1980), journalist, social justice activists, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.
Other Harpies wrote posts about Vera Wang ad campaigns, the politics of terrorism, International Women's Day (March 8th if you missed it) and Dolores Huerta.

Next week, I have posts lined up about Sylvia Pankhurst, a new report on bisexual invisibility, and (if you're lucky) a report from the graduate conference on gender, sexuality and urban spaces that my friend Minerva and I attended this weekend at MIT's Stata Center.


booknotes: dare ... to try bisexuality

Once again, LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program has provided me with an advance review copy of something related to queer sexuality -- although this time around the results were (intentionally or not) much more hilarious than Making it LegalDare ... to try Bisexuality by Pierre Des Esseintes is a slim 100-page volume, originally published in French and one installment in a series of instructional books that include such titles as Dare ... to Have Anal Sex and Dare ... to Try Bondage. "Saucy sex advice from France!" announces the cover cheerfully.

You might ask why I requested a review copy of this book (and it would be a fair question). I had misgivings about it from the title alone: "try" a sexual orientation? Um ... come again?  I mean, I'm definitely a believer in sexual fluidity, but that doesn't imply that "bisexuality" is something one can take on and take off at whim, like a new sweater or experimental color of lipstick. Rather, it suggests that our sexual desires and affectional attractions are unpredictable, and that we should cultivate an openness to the possibility of change over time.  The title of this book suggested, on its face, a much more ... gung ho! approach? And I was wary.

What I realized, once I'd cracked the spine, was that the title is, in part, suffering from cross-cultural meanings becoming lost in translation.  Whereas an American audience would read "bisexual" as an orientation, this French manual is clearly situating it as a lifestyle. What, in American terms, is probably more aptly described as being "polyamorous," seeking out open or swinging relationships, or perhaps just slutting it up with partners of multiple sexes. Well, with both male and female partners. Maybe trans folks as well, but the text is unclear about that.

Actually, Des Esseintes is all over the frigging map when it comes to what, exactly, he means by "bisexuality." Sometimes he seems to approach it as an orientation, sometimes he actually seems to be talking more about transsexuality (chapter one is titled "Bi: Between Two Sexualities or Both at Once?" and discusses the myth of Hermaphrodite). Most of the book treats bisexual behavior (i.e. individuals who seek out both same- and other-sex sexual partners) as something fun and optional. Something any person might try out as a possible approach to sexual relationships that could work for them. This is both highly amusing and highly irritating -- throughout my reading I was distracted by trying to decide whether the man was being delibrately over-inclusive in his terms and examples, or whether this was just a case of sloppy thinking and/or sloppy translation. I still haven't decided.

Overall, the book invokes pretty much every stereotype about bisexuality as well as relying heavily on false notions of gender difference. Take, for example, this passage in the chapter on women's bisexual behavior:
At some point in their lives, some girls, whether or not they live with a man, need a kind of loving they can't get from guys. All the women who opined to us about the differences between men and women in bed highlighted the tenderness and gentleness that women alone can deliver (53).
Note how this passage implies that people who feel bisexual desires "need" to act on those desires, because they won't be totally satisfied with the sex that they're going to get from a single partner (representing only one of the sexes they are attracted to).  Plus, "women alone," apparently, are capable of delivering tenderness and gentleness in bed ... an assertion that I'm pretty sure would astound a great number of women in relationships with men.  Des Esseintes goes on to suggest that lesbian lovers are all, by virtue of gender, noncompetitive cuddlefests ... an assertion I think would come as a surprise to many lesbians who enjoy a little topping/bottoming action in the bedroom in addition to candles, massage oil, and snuggling.

The most positive thing I can say about this book, really, is that it is written in the spirit of informational neutrality. For all its stereotypical depictions of sexuality and sexual relationships, the book conveys basically responsible advice about sexual health (see "A note on taking precautions before blowing a stranger," p. 33) and is blithely encouraging to its readers about giving "bisexuality" a go, on the chance it floats your boat. Chapter six ("Bi in Bed: Choreography") offers step-by-step instructions -- with illustrations! -- for various three- and four-person positions for getting off. "You too!" the book seems to shout, "can recruit your friends and lovers to enjoy the pleasures of The Magic Square!"

Go forth and be amused.


ficnotes: imperfection

Ginny Weasley
Over the weekend, I participated in a telephone interview with a graduate student doing research on women's experience with "sexually explicit materials" (i.e. pornography and erotica). And, what with one thing and another, we got discussing fanfiction and I observed to her -- because this has been a topic of conversation among friends recently -- how frustrating it is that so few fic authors write really good lesbian slash. I am definitely into lesbian erotica (coughcough), but most of the fanfiction I read tends to be about male characters. I love these stories, but it makes me sad sometimes that lesbian love stories are so thin on the ground in the fanfiction genre.

Maybe I've found my calling as a writer ...?

But in the meantime, I thought I'd tip my hat to F/F slash with this sweet little one-shot Harry Potter fic by author FayJay (whose work I plan to feature in several other ficnotes in weeks to come).
Title: Imperfection
Author: FayJay
Pairing: Hermione/Ginny
Rating: PG-13 (my rating; author didn't give one)
Length: 2121 words (one chapter)
Available At:
Archive of Our Own
This fic falls into the genre of same-sex flirtation that grows out of two girls discussing their sexual experience with boys, and how it ... lacks something. Something they can't quite put their fingers on (double entendre very much intended).

I'm going to continue my quest for better F/F fic in the months to come, so watch for future installments of ficnotes featuring (I hope!) awesome female characters in addition to the usual suspects.


happy birthday, birthday boy!

So today's my awesome brother Brian's 27th and so we're going to take a moment to celebrate.

At Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Portland, Oregon (March 2010)
 Yo Bro! Many Happy Returns of the Day. Hope your art students bring you cupcakes.


from the neighborhood: 4-H VPs

This passed Saturday, Hanna volunteered as a judge for one of the local 4-H clubs' Visual Presentations competitions. Hanna used to do 4-H as a child in Maine, and a colleague at Countway roped her into getting involved in the day's activities. I tagged along as the driver (and last-minute door monitor).

Audience members listen to a young Junior class (ages 8-13) presenter
Hanna (in blue sweater) takes notes on a presentation

There's already been talk of Hanna joining the advisory committee ... so there may be more 4-H in our near future. I promise if I come across any bunnies I will photograph them and provide pictures here on the blog!


harpy week: badass elders, badass beauties, a harpy seminar and more

It was a subdued sort of week over at Harpyness, at least for me. Busy week at work meant lighter, less time-consuming posts to write.
Other Harpies wrote about Charlie Sheen, the SCOTUS ruling on Westboro Baptist Church's first amendment rights, and solicited names for a series of posts on historical figures for women's history month. First up in the series was Shirley Chisholm; watch for future installments through the month. Next week, I'll be posting one about radical peace and labor activist Dorothy Day.

Finally, we were most pleased to offer a guest post by a friend of one of the Harpies who has recently gone through a divorce and reflected on his desire to establish a family, have children, and how those plans had been interrupted by the end of his relationship. We were pleased to have him and hope to feature more Harpy readers as guest posters as time goes on.


"all of the slurs we called each other were gender neutral"

May I say: Vag Magazine FTW!

My latest issue of Bitch magazine contained an interview with two of the creators of the online serial "Vag Magazine," which follows the internal politics of a group of young women who have taken over a mainstream women's magazine in an effort to subvert the patriarchy.

Hilarity ensues. Hope y'all enjoy!


ficnotes: my phone's on vibrate for you

Last week, I offered up one of my favorite one-shots by Miss Lucy Jane. This week, we're returning to Miss Lucy Jane for a five-part work in progress that starts out as a lark and ends up ... a bit more serious.
Title: My Phone's On Vibrate For You
Author: Miss Lucy Jane
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Rating: NC-17
Length: currently five parts, work-in-progress
Available At:
MissLucyJane.com: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 (navigation links on the right-hand side of each page).
Playing with Sherlock's penchant for texting John instructions, this fic begins with flirtation via phone. Sherlock texts John all the time, for all sorts of reasons ... which is why John isn't quite sure what to make of the text that reads: "When you get home I want to blow you against the front door. SH." Or the following one that reads: "And then I want you to fuck me on the stairs. I can’t wait long enough to get you into bed. SH.”

The relationship begins as a "fuck buddies" sort of arrangement, but it isn't long before both men realize that it means a bit more than that.

(I don't know what it says about me that I'm writing this fic up while listening to Martin Sheen giving John Spencer a history lesson about Galileo in West Wing 2.9. I'm torn between a) assuming that I've finally learned how to multi-task and b) that I find slash fic and American politics equally sexy. Feel free to weigh in.)